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CAW: Editing and Rewriting in Medieval Persian Poetry

Presentation by Julie Ershadi, Program of Iranian Studies, Department of Near Eastern Languages & Cultures

Thursday, March 5, 2020
6:00 PM - 7:30 PM

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 Jahān Malek Khātun (d. after 1382) was a princess of the Injuid dynasty in 14th-century Shiraz and a poet at the court of her uncle, Shaikh Abu Esḥāq (d. 1357). She is the only known female poet of the premodern Persian lyric tradition and was a contemporary of Hāfez of Shiraz (d. 1390) and Kamāl Khojandi (d. 1400). Her divān contains 1,413 ghazals, lyric poems of five to twelve lines. The collection, which she appears to have compiled herself and for which she wrote a short yet revelatory introduction, contains various pairs of ghazals that are so similar in content and structure, and have such a clear pattern of similarity, that they can be confidently regarded as iterative drafts resulting from the poet’s writing process. The existence of revisionary renditions of a classical ghazal poet’s works is extremely unusual. While the scholarship has very little access to information about the crafting process of the typical premodern Persian lyric poet, Jahān’s drafts present an entrypoint to this otherwise impenetrable topic. 


 This study identifies for the first time the structural patterns that demarcate draft poems in Jahān’s divān and posits an explanation for their inclusion based on her remarks in the introduction and historical context. In addition to expanding the lines of inquiry on a unique and under-represented poet in the Persian lyric canon, this study takes advantage of the extremely rare opportunity to examine a poet’s development of her craft by analyzing versions of lines in the divān and comparing them on lexico-syntactic, lyrical, and aesthetic grounds.


The Central Asia Workshop is an interdisciplinary discussion group sponsored by the UCLA Program on Central Asia. The goal of the workshop is to encourage graduate student research on Central Asia by creating a space where students and interested faculty can discuss research, theory and ideas with others who have experience or interest in the region. The workshop is a forum for exploring recent research and classical and contemporary theoretical perspectives that inform work in Central Asia. Weekly discussions are led by members on a rotating basis, and topics are determined by group interests.


For information about joining the Central Asia Workshop, contact the organizers at caw@international.ucla.edu.